He lived next-door to my Granddad.
A knurly-handed, working-man who had served his time in the trenches of the First World War. Towards the end of his days, life centred on the wooden shed at the end of his garden.
Whenever I visited, I’d hop over the garden fence, bang on the backdoor, to let Tom know I’d arrived.
We would walk the short pathway, through the manicured garden, Lupins, Dahlias and rows of runner beans. I still get excited at the thought of visiting Tom’s pigeon loft!
The gurgling, coo sound. If treacle made a noise, that’s what it would be.
Pigeon racing is a hobby that goes back to the Sumerians, before the birth of Christ. Egyptians used them to announce the death of Kings, in WW1 forces used carrier pigeons and journalists sent back their copy. It’s how we got the news.
Tom knew the history, used their droppings as fertiliser and called each one of his beauties by name.
Once a month Tom would strap a wicker basket on the back of his bike and set off. I’d pedal like crazy to keep up, as we headed out into the country to release the birds.
On competition days, to the coach station, where the beauties would be shipped off, to ‘the liberation point’, places I’d have to look-up on a map.
The next-day we’d sit in deckchairs, next to the loft, watching the clock and searching the dusky-pink, London skyline, for the beauties to fly home. First, two tiny dots on the horizon. Tom always saw them first. They always came home, hungry. How they did it, even Tom couldn’t explain.
The birds wore a rubber ring around one leg. The ring was removed and put into a fiddle-proof time-clock, that would stamp the time and date they’d arrived. Today, the high-end lofts have tiny cameras, a pressure sensitive landing platform, which triggers a time clock and a wifi signal.
Winning, pedigree-birds are worth a fortune. The record is £200,000. There are about 60,000 enthusiasts in the UK.
Because they are so valuable, pigeons are very well looked after. Racing pigeons can cost £200k.
Their welfare regime includes routine testing; loft tests, virology tests, adenovirus test, herpes, chlamydia, rotavirus, worms, coccidiosis, canker, crop, TB… the list goes on and on. The beauties are looked after like the precious asset they are.
What a shame the NHS can’t test its precious asset, the front-line, with similar enthusiasm…
If a member of staff has CV symptoms they have to get themselves tested. If positive, self isolate, immediately and the test and trace people will want to know who they’ve been in contact with.
The people they’ve been working with be required to self-isolate for 14 days. You’d think the first thing to do would be to test them?
No, they are just sent home to sit on the sofa and the closest they’ll get to healthcare is watching Holby City on the telly. There is no option in the guidance, for employers, to test them.
Given the nature of hospital working environments, staff could come back to work, make another contact and be sent home again… and again.
This bonkersness is why Magic Morecambe Bay, after one of their people tested positive, ended up sending 38 members of their staff, from their paediatric wards, home and closing the ward.
Common-sense tells you, it can’t just be MBay in this predicament.
I didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to ferret out other Trusts are having the same problems and I hear there are a lot more, right across England but no one will say anything, on the record.
NHSE are sitting on the news.
The NHS has a ridiculous staff-testing policy, ministers look stupid, hosptials managers shouldn’t be bullied into silence. How many wards are closed and how many staff are being sent home?
Soon there’ll be more staff sitting around their kitchen table than standing around our hospital beds.
For goodness sake… test them!
Have the best weekend you can.